A new guideline issued earlier this year by China’s Ministry of Education allows international students registered in degree-granting higher education institutions the opportunity to work while studying.
Students who have been studying at their school for more than a year will be authorized to work on or off-campus for a maximum of eight hours per week, totalling no more than 40 hours per month. During the summer and winter vacations, this will be increased to 16 hours per week and a maximum of 80 hours per month.
Any work done will need to be approved by the student’s institution of study as well as the local Exit and Entry Bureau. Each and every change in employment will necessitate receiving an agreement and certificate from the institution, as well as reapplying to the bureau.
“This is a new policy for 2022, so we do not know every detail yet. If you want to get a part-time job in China and pursue a work-study, you can communicate with your university’s Career Department or International Students’ Department for more specific information,” wrote Savannah Billman for China Admissions.
The explanation has been especially appreciated by students, who have frequently received contradictory information about their rights to work in China from even their own institutions. Earlier, international students were not authorized to work while studying, despite the fact that moonlighting in professions such as English teaching or hospitality has long been prevalent.
Meanwhile, the government has clamped down on this in recent years, particularly in the English teaching sector, by limiting the visa categories that can open domestic bank accounts.
Several students are concerned that the complicated nature of the regulations, particularly the demand for permission from both the school and immigration officials, will mean that companies will continue to favour cash-in-hand work.
Prior to the Covid pandemic, China was working to expand its international education programs in order to recruit 500,000 international students each year by 2020.
In 2018, the most recent year for which data is publicly available, 492,000 degree and non-degree pursuing students studied in the country. The figure had been progressively rising over the last decade, implying that the aim would have been met if not for the outbreak. However, job rights and assistance for international students have lagged significantly below that of other top locations.
International graduate students of Chinese universities have no post-graduation work privileges, and bachelor’s graduates cannot work legally in China after graduating because current work visa regulations require two years of post-graduate work experience outside of China as a minimum requirement in lieu of a master’s degree or higher.
Certain exceptions have been made for students from prestigious universities, but these have not been made available on a national scale.
In 2016, a trial initiative in Shanghai permitted graduates to obtain a visa to work as interns, invest in, or create their own businesses in China for up to two years within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone or the Zhanjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone.
International students recommended by their universities were also allowed to work part-time in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science Park. Pilot initiatives and small-scale rollouts may indicate that larger-scale acceptance is in the works.
“They are positive signs that the Chinese government is considering opening up more broadly opportunities for international students to undertake part-time work or internships during their studies in China and to allow international students to work in China upon graduation,” said the Australian Embassy in Beijing at the time.
The developments, although will matter little to the thousands of students who have been unable to return to China to continue their education for nearly two years because of the Covid outbreak. The borders remain closed, despite assurances from officials and diplomats.